Leaders Open Doors

Silhouette of businesswoman with briefcase standing in doorway

An Approach to Lift People, Profit and Performance

“I got to open doors for people!”

When Bill Treasurer heard his five-year-old son say those words, he immediately recognized this as valuable leadership advice. With decades of consulting experience, Bill wrote Leaders Open Doors: A Radically Simple Leadership Approach to Lift People, Profits, and Performance as a new approach to leadership. Bill Treasurer is the founder of Giant Leap Consulting. He has led corporate workshops for clients ranging from Saks Fifth Avenue to NASA.

 

“Leadership is about momentum and results.” -Bill Treasurer

 

I wanted Bill to share his approach to leadership and how Leaders Open Doors.  Bill is also careful to explain that leaders open doors, but that does not mean they have always-open door policies:

 

“Allowing yourself to be continuously interrupted is a recipe for lousy leadership.” -Bill Treasurer

 

Open Door Leaders Make People Uncomfortable

What’s most important about leadership?

The focus of leadership should not be the leader. The focus should be on what the leader is doing to create opportunities for those he or she is leading. Ultimately, followers reap the rewards of effective leadership.

I call leaders who focus on creating opportunities for those they serve Open-door Leaders.

 

“Vulnerability is critical to leadership because it mitigates the leader’s ego.” -Bill Treasurer

 

Explain why you say that a leader’s job is to make people uncomfortable.

FINAL 2 (1)People and organizations grow, progress, and evolve by taking on challenges, which are, by definition, uncomfortable things. An Open-door Leader’s job is to nudge people into their discomfort zones.

The trick is nudging people far enough outside their comfort zones that they become motivated to pursue a higher standard of performance, but not so far outside their comfort zones that they get paralyzed with fear.

To be clear, making people uncomfortable does not equate with stoking their fears. There’s nothing more childish than intimidating leadership. Fear is cheap leadership – it takes no effort or thought. Open-door Leaders, conversely, make people feel safe enough that they want to pursue uncomfortable challenges. By creating safety, the leader helps people become comfortable with being uncomfortable.

Virginia “Ginni” Rometty, the CEO of IBM, said it best: “Growth and comfort do not coexist.”

 

“Growth and comfort do not coexist.” -Ginny Rometty

 

Restoring Confidence

How does a leader restore confidence in someone who is discouraged?

Three ways:

  1. Sharing stories of his or her own hardships and struggles. When leaders share stories about their own imperfections, failures, or mistakes with us, we judge ourselves less harshly.
  2. Believing in us more than we believe in ourselves. Leaders have to constantly remind us of our potential so we can see momentary missteps in a larger context.
  3. Give people another shot. Consider, for example, when you were learning how to ride a bike. What did your parents make you do whenever you fell? Get back up and try again. They didn’t stop believing in you just because you fell. They viewed the setback as part of the learning process. Likewise, after a career setback or failure, the leader should help us draw out corrective lessons, and then have us re-attempt the thing that set us back.

 

“Leaders open doors.” -Bill Treasurer

 

How do leaders shift perspective in others?

3 Essential Keys to Navigate Your Political Force Field

Challenge

This is a guest post by Joe Scherrer, author of The Leadership Forge: 50 Fire-Tested Insights to Solve Your Toughest Problems, Care for Your People, and Get Great Results. Joe is the President of The Leadership Crucible and a decorated Air Force veteran. His 24 year career included command of five units.

The Importance of Playing Politics

Ever heard comments like these?

“That decision was all about politics.”

“So-and-so is a real politician.”

 

Or, consider your answers to these questions:

How has politics impacted your ability to lead?

How would you assess your political skills?

Here’s the point: Even if you find “playing politics” distasteful, as a leader you’re a part of your organization’s political environment whether you like it or not. That’s because any time a group of smart, ambitious, type-A, competitive, achievement-oriented people gets together, there will be conflict of various kinds.

 

“One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.” -Plato

 

In your leadership role, you will experience disagreements, deals gone sour, questionable ethics, undermining, jockeying for position, currying of favor, backbiting, and all of the unsavory things that arise when the stakes are high, resources are scarce, power is to be gained or lost, and reputations are on the line.

In short, this is politics.

The reality is that if you if you want to get things done, you need to learn to play the game well.

 

“If you want to get things done, you need to learn the game of politics.” -Joe Scherrer

 

Simply stated, your political force field consists of the dynamic interaction of leaders, each of whom seeks to:

  1. use and increase their power in order to
  2. advance and achieve their agendas and to
  3. protect and satisfy their self-interest.

As a result your political force field fluctuates constantly as power is gained or lost, agendas succeed or fail, and self-interest is fulfilled or frustrated.

Let’s look at what it takes for you to maneuver successfully within your political force field.

 

3 Essential Keys for Successful Navigation

Of course, the ideal policy would be to act altruistically in the service of the organization with the expectation that those around you will do the same.  However, since the real world falls short of the ideal, you must adopt other methods to navigate successfully through the human minefield that is the politics of leadership.

Key #1: Maintain Your Integrity.

Know what you believe in and remain grounded in your values.  Although you’re playing in the arena of high-level professional politics, it’s neither necessary nor advisable to sacrifice your integrity to do your job.

Key #2: Realize You’re Not Above the Politics.

Since you’re part of the system, the way you handle yourself and deal with situations will cause the political force field around you to flux and change.

Key #3: Be Aware of the Politics.

Part of your problem-solving calculus and decision-making process must include an assessment of your political force field.  Leaders who fail to account for the political situation wonder why their solutions don’t fly and their decisions fail.

 

“Integrity has no need of rules.” -Albert Camus

5 Vital Steps for Successful Navigation

Completing these five straightforward steps will allow you to map out your political force field, remain aware of your status within it, and take action to navigate it with confidence.

Step 1.  Identify the key actors who make up the political situation in which you find yourself.  List all the people who control, influence, or otherwise affect your ability to produce results and achieve your goals.

Assume the Positive

Positive And Negative Written On Piece Of Paper

Start With The Positive

You’re flipping channels on the television when all of a sudden you land on a game show. You hear the crowd shouting answers.  The person playing the game is trying to answer the host of the show, hoping to win big.  In the background you can see a gleaming new car.

You don’t intend to watch, but you want to see what happens. The contestant squints, grimaces, and tentatively answers.

Almost instantaneously you hear a loud buzzer going off.  The obnoxious sound signals the end of the dream.

Game Over.

Some people seem to wait in the wings as if watching a game show.  Whatever you do, whatever you say, they are sitting in judgment.  They wait for the opportunity to hit the buzzer, to declare you wrong, to declare “game over.”

Do you know someone like that?

You never hear a word of encouragement.  You never hear a positive word.  It’s not that it is hard to elicit a positive response; it’s impossible.

But they are quick to point out a misspelling.  They are fast hitting reply and telling you how disappointed they are in something.

I once knew someone who was apt at pointing out what was wrong.  He was in my office, complaining about someone.  My advice to him was, “Assume the positive. Give the person the benefit of the doubt.  Ask some questions.  Don’t be so quick to condemn and complain.”

 

“Listen with the intent to understand, not the intent to reply.” –Stephen Covey

Assume positive intent.

What if it wasn’t an attack, but was a mistake?

What if it wasn’t a mistake, but a miscommunication?

What if it wasn’t a miscommunication, but an oversight?

What if it wasn’t an oversight, but was caused by an undisclosed personal issue?

 

There are so many times when we need to step back.  Instead of complaining, blaming and assuming the worst, pause and reflect.

Someone recently sent me a surprising note accusing me of ignoring his email.  What he didn’t know: I was on an international flight and did not have access to email for fifteen hours.

5 Reasons Why Leaders Must Sometimes Take A Back Seat

Gold Fish
This is a guest post by Matt Driscoll, who is the management and Leadership L&D Consultant at Thales.

3 Basic Styles of Leadership

Leadership training is one of the most important and challenging aspects of learning and development, and there are three basic styles of leadership that one can develop: Managerial, Visionary, and Strategic.

Managerial

Managerial leaders focus all their attention on short-term goals and daily needs.  They are reactive, champions of cost-benefit analysis, and often guilty of micromanaging staff.

Visionary

Visionary leaders, on the other hand, focus their attention on the future.  They create a compelling vision of their company’s future and motivate workers to strive toward that goal. However, because they are consumed with plans for the future, visionary leaders neglect the day-to-day operational necessities and current financial realities of their companies.

Strategic

The most effective leadership style is strategic.  Strategic leaders develop compelling visions for the future of their companies and motivate workers to strive toward the common goals they define, while diligently maintaining the short-term financial stability of their business.

Apart from being attuned to both short and long-term needs, strategic leaders set themselves apart by focusing their attention on human capital within their organizations.  In order to move the company forward, leaders must constantly develop the capabilities and competencies of their teams.  Great leaders make those around them better, but they can only do so by coaching, mentoring, trusting, and ultimately giving their teams space to learn and grow through direct experience.

 

“Great leaders make those around them better.”

 

These are five crucial reasons why the most effective leaders often take a back seat:

 

1. To Develop New Leaders

Successful companies cultivate leadership at every level of the business, so rather than creating a workplace dominated by a single powerful figure, companies must encourage new leaders to rise from within the ranks.  Executives must learn to recognize when employees are capable and motivated to fill leadership roles, allowing them to take charge in order to help them develop.

 

“Successful companies cultivate leadership at every level of the business.”

 

2. To Learn

No matter how successful a team leader may be, he or she cannot be right all the time.  The best leaders know their weaknesses and seek guidance whenever they are out of their depth. Whether that means following the lead of someone else within the business or seeking professional development resources elsewhere, good leaders recognize the need for constant learning.

 

“Growing other leaders from the ranks isn’t just the duty of the leader, it’s an obligation.” –Warren Bennis

 

 

3. To Better Allocate Resources

Becoming A Heart-Centered Leader

Red Heart On Wooden Background

Matters of the Heart

Students of leadership will often look at the intellectual attributes of a great leader. We point to great strategy, distinction, winning against the competition.  Leadership is also about matters of the heart.  Susan Steinbrecher and Joel Bennett’s book Heart-Centered Leadership reminds leaders to be mindful, authentic, and caring.

I recently had the opportunity to ask Susan Steinbrecher about her work. Susan is a consultant, mediator, speaker and leads Steinbrecher & Associates, Inc., a management consulting firm.

 

“Never look down on anybody unless you’re helping them up.” -Jesse Jackson

 

Leading From the Heart

What is your definition of “Heart-Centered Leadership”?

Heart-Centered Leadership means having the wisdom, courage and compassion to lead others with authenticity, transparency, humility and service.

 

“You lead by encouragement and inspiration, not by fear and control.” -Susan Steinbrecher

 

Anyone can be a heart-centered leader if he or she has the determination and daily commitment to practice certain core principles.  The root or basis of these principles is what we call “the power of the human element.”  Two things are required to tap into and unleash the human element.  The first is your ability to listen or, even better, your ability to learn how to listen.  The second is your own willingness to clear personal obstacles, in other words, your own story and organizational obstacles that get in the way of this deeper listening.

 

“If you stand straight, do not fear a crooked shadow.” -Chinese Proverb

 

3 Differences of a Heart-Centered Leader

Off the top of your head, what 3 things are different about a heart-centered leader?

  1. The focus is to serve the people that you are leading, not the other way around.
  2. A heart-centered leader tells the truth.  If you are not able to provide information when asked, you must be willing to explain why you aren’t at liberty to share that information.
  3. A heart-centered leader does not judge or assume, but comes to understand, asking the right questions instead rushing to judgment and assumption.

Our book outlines some key guidelines for heart-centered behavior. But in order for this behavior to be authentic, it has to come from a place of emotional resonance and coherence. You have to believe in what you are doing. It has to resonate with you. Ultimately, a heart-centered leader leads from principles, values, and virtues.

 

“Since in order to speak, one must first listen, learn to speak by listening.” -Rumi

 

Encouraging Leaders to Have an Open Mind

How do you encourage leaders to be open-minded?

I ask them to reflect on a time in their career when being open-minded paid big dividends and why.  I also ask them to tell me of a time when they were not open-minded and what happened.  I find that if people can reflect on their own experiences, they can piece together the benefits of being open-minded much faster than me pointing out the rewards of being open-minded.

0615891195Another approach is to ask leaders to imagine how differently they would communicate with an associate if grounded in this key principle: people have positive intentions.  It requires revising certain ways of thinking, such as taking sides in a conflict, and replacing them with healthier habits of mind — observing the perspective of both sides.  It involves identifying and taking responsibility for your own mental tendencies, including an inclination to stereotypes and making snap judgments about what people “should” do.  It also means flexing your empathetic muscle.  As a result, you gain a greater understanding of the causes of atypical behavior and problems that result from that behavior, as well as insight into the best solution.

 

“Wisdom is knowing what to do next; virtue is doing it.” -David Starr Jordan

 

Leaders Need to Let Go

Often leaders feel like they need to seize the reigns, and yet you talk about the importance of letting go.  Tell us more about that.